A year is only 17.5 hours on the ‘hell planet’

A year is only 17.5 hours on the ‘hell planet’

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The exoplanet 55 Cancri e goes by several names, but the rocky world 40 light-years from Earth is best known due to its reputation as a ‘hell planet’.

This super-Earth, so named because it is a rocky planet eight times as massive and twice as wide as Earth, is so scorching hot that it molten lava ocean in front of a surface that reaches 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,982 degrees Celsius).

The interior of the exoplanet may also be full of diamonds.

The planet is already hot enough compared to the Star Wars lava world of Mustafarsite of the battle between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Revenge of the Sith”, and where Darth Vader later establishes his castle, Fortress Vader.

The planet, formally named Janssen but also referred to as 55 Cancri e or 55 Cnc e, orbits its parent star Copernicus so closely that the blistering world completes one orbit in less than one Earth day. A year for this planet lasts about 17.5 hours on Earth.

The incredibly tight orbit is why Janssen has such intensely hot temperatures — so close that astronomers doubted the existence of a planet while practically hugging a host star.

Astronomers wondered if the planet had always been this close to its star.

A team of researchers used a new tool known as EXPRES, or the EXtreme PREcision Spectrometer, to determine the precise nature of the planet’s orbit. The findings could help astronomers gain new insights into how planets form and how these celestial bodies evolve a job.

The instrument was developed at Yale University by a team led by astronomer Debra Fischer and installed on the Lowell Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The spectrometer was able to measure small shifts in Copernicus’ starlight as Janssen moved between our planet and the star — like when the moon blocks the sun during an eclipse.

The researchers determined that Janssen orbits along the star’s equator. But the help planet is not the only planet orbiting Copernicus. Four other planets on different orbital paths populate the galaxy.

The astronomers think Janssen’s eccentric orbit suggests the planet initially started out in a cooler and more distant orbit before drifting closer to Copernicus. Then the gravitational pull of the star’s equator changed Janssen’s orbit.

An illustration shows how closely the planet Janssen (left), shown as an orange dot, orbits its parent star Copernicus.

The news Nature Astronomy published a study detailing the findings on Thursday.

“Astronomers expect this planet to have formed much further away and then orbited in its current orbit,” Fischer, a senior study author and Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy at Yale, said in a statement. “That trip could have kicked the planet out of the star’s equatorial plane, but this result shows that the planet was held tight.”

Despite the fact that Janssen has not always been close to its star, the astronomers concluded that the exoplanet was always very hot.

The planet “probably was so hot that nothing we know of could survive on the surface,” lead study author Lily Zhao, a research associate at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York, said in a statement.

Once Janssen moved closer to Copernicus, the help planet got even hotter.

Our solar system is flat as a pancake, where all the planets orbit the sun in a flat plane because they are all formed from the same disc of gas and dust that once swirled around our sun.

As astronomers have studied other planetary systems, they have found that many of them do not contain planets orbiting one flat plane, which raises the question of how unique our solar system is in the universe.

This kind of data could provide more information about how common Earth-like planets and environments might be in the universe.

“We hope to find planetary systems similar to our own, and to better understand the systems we know,” Zhao said.

The primary purpose of the EXPRES instrument is to detect Earth-sized planets.

“Our precision with EXPRESS today is more than 1,000 times better than what we had 25 years ago when I started working as a planet hunter,” Fischer said. “Improving measurement accuracy has been the primary goal of my career because it allows us to detect smaller planets as we search for terrestrial analogues.”



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